NBA Playoffs 2011: Who on the Dallas Mavericks Will Guard Russell Westbrook?

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: Who on the Dallas Mavericks Will Guard Russell Westbrook?

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    DENVER, CO - APRIL 25:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on against the Denver Nuggets in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2011 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. The Nugg
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder are set to take each other on in the Western Conference Finals which begin Tuesday.

    There are a lot of difficult matchups for both teams.  How will the Mavericks try to slow down Kevin Durant?  Can anyone guard Dirk?  Can the Thunder match the firepower on the Mavs bench?

    Perhaps the most difficult matchup is Russell Westbrook.  

    He's taken a lot of criticism for shooting the ball a lot this postseason, but no one can argue that his speed and explosiveness didn't cause major headaches for the Nuggets and Grizzlies.

    It will be very difficult for Dallas to neutralize that speed with the guards on their roster.  

    This list will list five players who could be matched up with Westbrook during this series—the order is based on potential effectiveness...

     

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5: J.J. Barea

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 04:  Jose Juan Barea #11 of the Dallas Mavericks moves the ball while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 4, 2011 in Los Angeles, Califor
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Barea may be the quickest guard on the Mavs, but he has huge disadvantages against Westbrook in terms of strength, length and vertical explosiveness.

    Plus, Westbrook is quicker than Barea too.

    I don't expect to see Barea spending much time in this matchup, but he could be a good change-of-pace defender for Dallas to throw at Westbrook from time to time.

4: Jason Kidd

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 02:  Jason Kidd #2 of the Dallas Mavericks and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers battle for a loose ball in the third quarter in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Jason Kidd spent most of the Western Conference Semifinals defending Kobe Bryant.  While that is certainly a tough matchup, Westbrook will cause more problems for Kidd.

    At this point in his career, Kobe is nowhere near as fast or quick as Westbrook.  

    After dealing with Andre Miller and Derek Fisher through the first two rounds, Westbrook is by far the most explosive point guard the Mavs have faced this postseason.

    At 38 years old, Kidd will really struggle to stay in front of the Thunder point guard—especially in the open court.

    They'll be matched up with each other a decent amount because they're the starting point guards, but expect the Mavs to try a lot of other things to slow Westbrook down.

3: Jason Terry

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 08:  Guard Jason Terry #31 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after a three-point shot against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2011 at American Airlines Center in
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Jason Terry is 33 years old, and is not in the same category as Westbrook athletically, but he's one of the most competitive players on the Mavs.

    He'll spend most of his time on James Harden and may even play Kevin Durant from time to time, but Dallas will throw him at Westbrook too.

3: Rodrigue Beaubois

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 27:  Rodrigue Beaubois #3 of the Dallas Mavericks during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 27, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Mavericks defeated the Suns 91-83. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Beaubois has played in just four games this postseason and has averaged fewer than eight minutes on the floor in those games.

    He may need to take on a bigger role this series.  Athletically, he's the only player on Dallas's roster who is superior to Westbrook.

    Beaubois's vertical (39") is three inches better than Westbrook's and his wingspan (6'10") is two inches longer.  Plus, he was a half-second faster than Westbrook in the NBA combine's lane agility drill.

    His length and athleticism could cause a lot of frustration for the Thunder point guard.

1: DeShawn Stevenson

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 04:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on DeShawn Stevenson #92 of the Dallas Mavericks in the first quarter in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 4, 2011 in
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The two best on-ball defenders on the Mavericks are Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson.  Marion will be plenty busy with Durant—Stevenson should be the one to take Westbrook.

    He's averaged a mere 13 minutes a game this postseason, but may need to be on the floor more in this series.

    He's extremely competitive and has great defensive instincts.  Those things could cause some problems for the Thunder point guard.

The Game Plan Against Westbrook

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    MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 13:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder waits for the ball to be inbounded against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 13, 2011 in Memphis, T
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    All five of the players on this slideshow will likely spend at least some time against Westbrook.  Giving him all those different looks should help slow him down.

    The biggest thing Dallas needs to do is keep Westbrook out of the situations he's best in.  

    If the Mavericks take care of the ball and limit their own turnovers, Westbrook won't have as many opportunities in the open court.

    With the game slowed down, they can exploit Westbrook's biggest weakness--he tries to do way too much.  

    When he gets into that mode, he turns the ball over (more than anyone in the league) and takes a lot more shots than he should.

    The Thunder had major problems in games when Westbrook shot the ball more times than Durant.

    Oklahoma City's point guard may be the single biggest key to this series.  If he shoots the ball 20 times a game and the Mavs guards keep him relatively contained in the open court—Dallas will win the series.

Jason Terry Talks to B/R About This Series

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    Jason Terry Recently Gave an Exclusive Interview to B/R

     

    Part I

     

    Part II

     

    Part III

     

    You can follow Andy Bailey on Twitter  @_Andy_Bailey